SA moves rhino abroad for safe keeping

2015-01-22 15:40
(File: AP)

(File: AP)

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Pretoria - Officials said on Thursday that it had moved around 100 rhino to unspecified neighbouring countries as part of efforts to stem the illicit slaughter of the animals for their horns.

Home to around 80% of the global rhino population, South Africa is at the epicentre of a poaching crisis.

Government figures released on Thursday show the country lost a record 1 215 rhinos last year, about a 20% increase on the 2013 toll, with 49 slain so far this year.

The animals are being poached to meet soaring demand for rhino horn, coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine in fast-growing economies such as China and Vietnam.

South Africa said in August that it planned to relocate rhinos from poaching "hot spots" in Kruger National Park, where about two-thirds of the killings take place.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told a news briefing that for security reasons, the precise countries where the rhinos had been moved would not be named.

Conservationists have said Botswana is a likely candidate as it is vast, sparsely populated and has had little poaching.

Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries where many of the poachers hail from, would almost certainly be off the list.

Molewa said that 56 of the animals had been moved within the Kruger itself, from danger zones to an “intensive protection zone”.

In 2015, another 200 rhinos will be moved from Kruger to what Molewa said were "strongholds" where the animals will be safer from poaching.

Kruger's rhino population is around 9 000.

Twenty bids have been received to purchase the animals and are being evaluated. The money raised will be put back into conservation projects.

Private ranchers own around 5 000 of South Africa's roughly 20 000 rhinos, part of a thriving game farming industry in Africa's most advanced economy catering to eco-tourism and hunting.

Rhino horn - the sale of which is strictly prohibited - is estimated by conservationists to be worth around $65 000 a kg (about R750 000), more than gold or platinum, and so 25 tons could fetch an estimated $1.6bn (about R18bn).

Read more on:    edna molewa  |  mbombela  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching

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